US state’s supreme court backs law on Confederate monuments

23 September 2021, 08:24

Cameron Maynard stands at attention by the monument to Confederate soldiers at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina (Jeffrey Collins/AP)
Confederate Monuments South Carolina. Picture: PA

The South Carolina legislature’s permission is needed to remove any monument, however the judges ruled a two-thirds majority would not be needed.

The South Carolina supreme court ruled that a state law preventing anyone from moving a Confederate monument or changing the historical name of a street or building without the Legislature’s permission is legal.

But in the same ruling, the justices struck down a requirement that two-thirds of the General Assembly must approve a move or name change.

The unanimous decision keeps intact South Carolina’s Heritage Act, which has stopped colleges and local governments from removing statues honouring Civil War soldiers or segregationists even as other areas of the South took them down after protests sparked by the killing of African American George Floyd last year by white police officers in Minnesota.

The law was passed in 2000 as part of a compromise to remove the Confederate flag from atop the South Carolina Statehouse dome.

The rebel banner was moved to a pole on the capitol lawn, where it flew until 2015 when politicians removed it after nine black church members were killed in a racist massacre at a Charleston church.

One of the people who sued politicians over the Heritage Act is the widow of state senator Clementa Pinckney, the pastor at Emanuel AME church in Charleston who died in the attack.

The law specifically protects monuments from 10 wars, from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War.

It also protects monuments honouring African Americans and Native Americans as well as a catchall phrase of “any historic figure or historic event”.

Jennifer Pinkney has pointed out that means she could not make changes to a monument to her late husband unveiled this year without asking politicians for permission.

Her lawyer, state senator Gerald Malloy, called the ruling a victory since monuments to racists are no longer protected by a two-thirds vote.

“The voice of the majority can now be heard about which statues and names best reflect our values and heritage.

“The road to justice is a long one that takes constant care.

“Today’s decision gets us further on our journey,” the Democrat from Hartsville said.

A small plane flies a Confederate flag (Steve Helber/AP)
A small plane flies a Confederate flag (Steve Helber/AP)

Days after the Confederate flag was removed in 2015, South Carolina legislative leaders vowed they would not approve the removal of any other statues or renaming of buildings under the Heritage Act and have kept their word.

South Carolina Senate President Harvey Peeler said in the summer of 2020 that “changing the name of a stack of bricks and mortar is at the bottom of my to-do list”.

He issued another statement Wednesday: “The protections over all of our state’s monuments and statues were ruled constitutional and they will remain in place.”

House Speaker Jay Lucas said in 2015 that no other changes would be considered while he was the chamber’s leader.

After Wednesday’s ruling he again repeated that promise.

Politicians in 2021 refused to even take the first step toward requests to remove monuments like Orangeburg asking to remove a Confederate statue or change names like Clemson University asking to rename a building that currently honours the late US senator “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, who led violent racist mobs to stop blacks from voting.

Left undecided after Wednesday’s ruling is what might happen if a local government ignores the law.

The act included no specific punishment for breaking it.

Some Republicans have suggested taking away a local government or school’s state funding, but that idea has not gained traction in the Legislature.

Charleston did remove a statue of former US vice president John Calhoun from a park in 2020, arguing the city owned the statue and it was on private land so it did not fall under the law.

Calhoun was a fierce defender of slavery with a racist view that blacks were better off owned by other people.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Earthshot 2021

Revealed: List of winners awarded £1million by Duke of Cambridge for Earthshot Prize 2021

Millionaire Robert Durst is believed to have killed three people.

Millionaire murderer on ventilator with Covid days after sentencing

Former PM Gordon Brown wants to send over a billion vaccines to low-income countries

Gordon Brown calls for emergency vaccine airlift to poorer nations

The US has "no idea" how the Chinese managed to make such progress on hypersonic missiles

China fires hypersonic missile around globe before striking target

A British Airways plane takes off as the resumption of UK – US flights was confirmed

UK – US flights to resume from 8 November after 19-month ban

Officers arrested the suspect after 30 minutes

Norway bow and arrow attack 'appears to be act of terror' as five killed

Police in Florida arrested the man on Tuesday

Man arrested after toddler found gun and shot mother dead during work Zoom call

Police officers cordon off the scene in Kongsberg

Five people killed after man goes on bow and arrow rampage in Norwegian town

Billy Hood has been jailed for 25 years

London football coach jailed for 25 years in Dubai over cannabis oil found in car

Blue Origin Launch.

Lift off! William Shatner soars into orbit on Blue Origin rocket

William Shatner take part in New Shepard spacecraft crew

Watch: William Shatner blasts off into space

Pen Farthing had staff and animals from his charity Nowzad evacuated from Afghanistan

Pen Farthing talks of 'total relief' as charity staff are flown into UK

Superman comes out as bisexual in DC's latest comic book.

Superman comes out as bisexual in DC's new comic book series

The northern flank of the volcano collapsed over the weekend, triggering new lava flows.

La Palma volcano partially collapses, spewing 'explosive bombs' of molten rock

Fuel stations and power plants in Lebanon have been forced to close.

Energy crisis: Warnings of blackouts in India and China and gas prices soar in Europe

Gerald Darmanin said "not one euro has been paid" of the promised £54m the UK promised to France to help prevent migrant crossings

'Not one euro paid' of money promised to France to tackle migrant crossings - minister